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NAWS program highlights design process of narrative painter Mary Helsaple

Saguaro Cactus Meet Up by Mary Helsaple. (Courtesy  of NAWS)

Saguaro Cactus Meet Up by Mary Helsaple. (Courtesy of NAWS)

Originally Published: April 13, 2022 8:13 p.m.

Have you ever wondered how a successful illustrator plans their visual stories? Sedona’s own Mary Helsaple has a personal approach to planning the painting of an idea that she would like to share with you.

Learn Helsaple’s creative process on April 22 at 9 a.m. at the Sedona United Methodist Church on 110 Indian Cliffs Road in Sedona.  This program is being sponsored by the Northern Arizona Watercolor Society (NAWS), a regional nonprofit watermedia art association with members from Flagstaff to Prescott.


Mary Helsaple working in her Sedona studio. (Courtesy of NAWS)

“I’m what you call a narrative painter,” Helsaple said. “For me, it’s about the idea and the story it tells.”

Her artistic journey has taken many paths over the years. She has co-produced Emmy award-winning TV nature documentaries, won numerous awards as a distinguished painter, and taught her own version of watercolor journaling at Yavapai College.  A consistent thread through these creative endeavors has been her desire to tell stories that connect people to nature.

“Every painting has an understructure of composition and an abstracted design that is integral to the success or failure of a painting,” Helsaple said

One of her strongest skills, she feels, is applying this design process even before beginning a painting. Using original artwork, she will show how she uses drawings and drawing templates to design and finalize her painting ideas.


Father of All Retrievers by Mary Helsaple. (Courtesy of NAWS)

Founded in 1995, NAWS has about 150 members who typically meet monthly to celebrate watermedia painting. These meetings feature informative learning topics and artist demonstrations. Additional membership benefits include access to exceptional quality workshops, participation in smaller critique groups and an extensive DVD loan library of painting technique videos.  NAWS welcomes visitors to its monthly meetings. For more information about NAWS, please send an email to nawsmembership20.21@gmail.com.

Information provided by NAWS.